|Reason for hearing
Violation of Rule 5.03: BD7 – January 29, 2015 – At approximately 6:35pm Inspectors visited the establishment known as the “Opposite Sidewalk Saloon” located at 132 South Carey Street for complaints of loitering. Upon arriving at the establishment, both inspectors – who did not identify themselves as inspectors and were posing as patrons – attempted to gain access to the bar area and were denied by the bar manager/operator. Inspectors then observed a customer ask for entry into the bar and he was denied access. At this point inspectors revealed themselves and informed the bar manager/operator of the violation.
Violation of Rule 3.06: Sanitation and Safety – January 29, 2015 – At approximately 6:35pm Inspectors visited the establishment known as the “Opposite Sidewalk Saloon” located at 132 South Carey Street for complaints of loitering. An inspection of the location revealed that stock for sale was both lined within the hallway and not elevated 2 inches off the floor. At this point inspectors revealed themselves and informed the bar manager/operator of the violation.
Mr. Kodenski represented the licensee, with three additional witnesses.
Mr. Thomas Akras, Deputy Executive Secretary of the BLLC first called Liquor Board Inspector Joann Martin to testify about what she saw on January 29, 2015. Ms. Martin stated that she and Chief Inspector Shelton Jones were across the street at B & O Tavern, posting the closure sign, when she observed numerous people loitering at the Opposite Sidewalk Saloon. She and Jones walked over and saw about six to eight people on the sidewalk, around the entrance of the bar. Ms. Martin was forced to walk around them, because they were blocking the entrance. She went inside the BD-7 establishment, which is divided into a package goods section and a bar section; she tried to open the door to the bar section, but it was locked. She asked the clerk behind the plexiglass in the package goods department if she could get in the bar section, and he told her no, that the bar was closed. She confirmed that the bar was closed and that he would not let her in. A patron outside was complaining about the line to buy package goods, so Inspectors Martin and Jones told him that he could go in the bar area and be served. When the patron tried to open the locked door to the bar area, the clerk told the patron that it was closed. At that point, Martin and Jones identified themselves as Liquor Board inspectors, showing their badges and identification. The inspectors were then allowed in the back of the bar and did a routine inspection of the premises. Martin said that she found trash in piles in the back, which blocked the way to the bathroom. She also found stock stacked up on the staircase to the second floor.
Under cross-examination, Martin said that the building does have “no loitering” signs posted outside. Kodenski pointed out that the Liquor Board’s Rules and Regulations do not state that stock has to be stored two inches above the ground. Martin responded that it must be in the health code. Kodenski also argued that the “trash” to which Martin referred wasn’t garbage but was cardboard boxes to be recycled. The main point of contention was about whether patrons are allowed to consume alcoholic beverages in the package good section of the establishment. Rule 5.03 doesn’t technically forbid this practice.
Mr. Embaye Kebrab was identified as the clerk behind the bar at the time, but he did not testify to anything further than this. Presumably, this is the same Embaye Kebrab who was the applicant for the transfer of the license at the top of the docket for the day, an application which was withdrawn.
Chief Inspector Shelton Jones then testified that, in the back of the building, he saw an exit door that was locked with a deadbolt. He said that this is a fire hazard, because patrons who needed to exit the building would have to find the key to unlock the door before they could get out, in an emergency. Jones testified that he has been in this particular bar at least three other times and has spoken to the licensee and his wife and to the clerk on duty at the time, in reference to the bar not being open, in violation of the law. Jones testified that loitering arrests have been made at this establishment. He said that licensees have been held responsible for loitering in front of their businesses. Kodenski argued that it can’t be the licensee’s responsibility to police this, because it is not safe for them to do so. At a bar called the Birdcage, according to Kodenski, a licensee asked loiterers to move along and was shot and killed in front of his bar.
On behalf of the licensee, a patron named David Ellis testified that the bar is open every day, that he goes there and drinks Bud Ice in the bar area and watches football and baseball. Ellis said that the licensee made improvements to the building when he took over, including new furniture and TVs.
|Other reasons given for decision
Chairman Ward said that he found the licensee responsible for both of the charges, because he believed the inspectors’ testimony that the back door was locked, that there was loitering blocking the entrance, that the bar portion of the tavern was closed, and that there were sanitation violations inside.
As Ward started to move on to the penalties assessed for the violations, Kodenski asked the Chairman to take a vote from the other two commissioners on the issue of responsibility for the charges. Ward became angry at this suggestion and said that he did not need to take a vote from Moore and Jones, because “[he] decides the law!” Ward told Kodenski that he was being disrespectful to him and reiterated that Ward alone was responsible for deciding violations of the law.
Kodenski, in mitigation, said that his client was normally responsible, that there is a large drug problem in the area. The licensee was in his home country of Eritrea, because his mother was ill, which is when the violation occurred.
Because of this clear record, Ward said that a fine would be a more appropriate penalty than a suspension. Ward originally suggested a fine over the $500 statutory maximum from Article 2B section 16-507(d)(1). Commissioner Jones and Mr. Akras corrected the Chairman about the maximum fine for the first violation. Commissioner Moore suggested a $500 fine for the first violation and a $750 fine for the second. She and Jones joined in Ward’s finding that the licensee was responsible for the violations.